I had the opportunity to write an article for Women Writers, Women’s Book. The site was launched in 2011 to be another platform for contemporary women writers and authors around the world writing in English. Its mission is to encourage and promote the visibility of women writers. We are particularly interested in the edges, the intersections between genres, nationalities, languages, arts, cultures.
Barbara Bos is the managing editor and owner of Women Writers, Women’s Books. With sections such as, writing, interviews, recommended reads, agent’s corner, submissions, library 2021, author genie, hybrid publishing, and ask BLIX, Barbara has lovingly and judiciously curated a site that both supports and encourages women writers.
Barbara was born in Holland. After finishing University she left for the UK. Since then she has uprooted herself twice more, currently living with her family in a small village in Galicia, North-West Spain.
Although life north of forty and fifty plus has changed in a more positive way for us as women, many of us still struggle with the changes our bodies go through in the three stages of menopause. According to Johnson Memorial Health, the three stages are:
Perimenopause– The earliest stage of menopause usually happens 3 to 5 years before full menopause occurs. During this time, estrogen, and progesterone levels drop.
Menopause– The technical definition of menopause is not having your period for 12 months or more without having other health issues like illness, surgery, or pregnancy. At this time, the ovaries cease to make estrogen and progesterone.
Post-menopause– When a full year has passed after your last period, you are officially in post-menopause. Over a period of years, your shifting hormones will settle into a more stable balance. Hot flashes and other menopause symptoms will likely reduce significantly.
Besides hot flashes, many women find themselves battling weight issues. For some women, hormone fluctuations make it harder to lose weight, and it can feel like you’ve lost control over your weight regardless of what you eat. There is always something shiny and new when it comes to the world of dieting and diet fads. At one time the grapefruit diet and cabbage diet were the rages. Then there was the Scarsdale diet that focused on protein and the villainization of carbohydrates, which resulted in weight loss but raised cholesterol levels and caused gout in some people. Here in the US, we have the proliferation of diet plans from Nutrisystem and Jennie Craig, diets where you buy the food you eat, and then there’s WW formerly known as Weight Watchers. WW uses a system of points for each food. Servings of food are assigned points based on four criteria: calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. Every Weight Watchers member gets assigned a daily and weekly point goal based on their height, weight, age, and gender. One of the latest entries for weight loss is Noom, which uses psychology to design a program to change eating habits. Members are coached virtually by psychologists whose goal is to help unlearn bad habits to form a healthy relationship with food. Dieting in America is a multi-billion dollar industry. Where it doesn’t seem to be a billion-dollar industry is in Europe.
People in countries like France, Italy, and Spain consume a lot of butter, pasta, cheese, and more, but they also have lower cases of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, just to name a few issues that are very common in the US. What is their secret? Well, there really is no secret. Europeans eat an abundance of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, bread, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. They also eat beef, lamb, game, and pork. What is most notable is the smaller portion sizes, and if they do snack, they don’t go for a bag of chips, choosing fresh bread, cheese, fruit, or nuts.
Since there’s so much going on in our lives, one of that the best ways to address this issue is to make a change gradually. Our bodies have been evolving since we were in utero, if we embrace this as something that happens incrementally, it can help with our health goals. We’ll share recipes that touch on facets of the Mediterranean diet (Italy, Spain, Greece), and the French diet full-fat cheese and yogurt, butter, bread, fresh fruits, and vegetables (often grilled or sautéed), small portions of meat (fish or chicken than red meat), wine, and dark chocolate.
Naturally, before beginning any lifestyle diet change, check with your doctor so the two of you can work together for a healthier you.
We begin with Baba Ganoush which is usually served as an appetizer. It’s a spread made chiefly of eggplant, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. There are a lot of variations of this eggplant spread. This recipe comes from the Mediterranean Dish Blog by Suzy, who has a number of wonderful recipes to try. The link to her site and social media platforms is below the recipe.
Baba Ganoush by Mediterranean Dish
2 pounds Italian eggplants (about 2 small-to-medium eggplants*)
2 medium cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more if necessary
¼ cup tahini
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the eggplant and garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
¾ teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of smoked paprika, for garnish
Serving suggestions: warmed or toasted pita wedges, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, etc.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the pan. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil. Place them in the prepared pan with the halved sides down.
Roast the eggplant until the interior is very tender throughout and the skin is collapsing, about 35 to 40 minutes (this might take longer if you are using 1 large eggplant). Set the eggplant aside to cool for a few minutes. Flip the eggplants over and scoop out the flesh with a large spoon, leaving the skin behind.
Place a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, then transfer the flesh to the strainer and discard the skins. Pick out any stray bits of eggplant skin and discard them. You want to remove as much moisture from the eggplant here as possible, so let the eggplant rest for a few minutes and shake/stir the eggplant to release some more moisture.
Discard all of the eggplant drippings, drain and wipe out the bowl, and dump the eggplant into the bowl. Add the garlic and lemon juice to the eggplant and stir vigorously with a fork until the eggplant breaks down. Add the tahini to the bowl and stir until it’s incorporated. While stirring, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue stirring until the mixture is pale and creamy, and use your fork to break up any particularly long strings of eggplant.
Stir in the parsley, salt, and cumin. Season to taste with more salt (I usually add another ¼ teaspoon) and more lemon juice, if you’d like a more tart flavor.
Transfer the baba ganoush to a serving bowl and lightly drizzle olive oil on top. Lastly, sprinkle parsley and smoked paprika on top. Serve.
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Aging in today’s society no longer has the same dark stigma it once had. Breakthroughs in medicine and advancements made in technology have paved the way for us to live longer, healthier lives while looking amazing. The first tenant of maintaining a youthful look is good skincare.
There’s an endless sea of skin care products marketed to women. You can’t turn on the television, or go online and not find ads for must-have facial and body skincare products. However, it’s important to do our research so that we can make sense of the claims and determine which products will work for us individually.
In the Health Coach section of Real Simple, This Is What Skin Concerns Look Like at Every Age (20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond) by Kristin Korpuz relays some of the things we can expect. To help us understand, she has experts, Dr. Doris Day, Dr. Jeanine Downie, Dr. Sabrina Fabi, Dr. Ava Shamban, and Dr. Ruth Tedaldi, dermatologists and hosts of THE GIST, a YouTube channel about the beauty industry.
Skincare in your forties
We really begin to see a change in our skin beginning in our forties. There is a loss of firmness and skin may appear to lose volume and firmness. Wrinkles can become more pronounced and we’ve got to be more careful about sun damage. There a lot of topical and injectable treatments like Botox and Restylane that address wrinkles and loss of volume, which can be administered in-office. Nevertheless, it’s important to maintain a good skin routine at home.
According to Dr. Robinson, you may need to use two different cleansers to address different issues- a mild exfoliating cleanser and a creamier lotion-like cleanser. The reason for this is to hydrate your skin and to deal with cell turnover, which becomes more apparent as we age.
Hyaluronic acid is a word that we begin to see more of once we’re over forty. It’s a natural molecule found in our skin as well as the connective tissue in our bodies. The main benefit of it is keeping our skin moist and lubricated. It can draw moisture from the air and allow your skin to hold almost 1000 times its own weight in water. For ultimate moisture retention, Dr. Robinson also recommends incorporating hyaluronic acid (can be used both day and night), as well as a rich night cream that contains glycerin, ceramics, and or fatty lipids to help encourage skin barrier repair.
Skincare in your fifties
Women in their fifties are beginning to experience changes due to hormonal fluctuations just as they did at the onset of menses, According to Dr. Robinson, “Post menopause, our bodies experience a hormone shift with declining levels of estrogen and increased levels of androgens and this can affect the skin”. Moreover, she explained that skin will be thinner and less elastic. B bone resorption is the process by which osteoclasts break down the tissue in bones and release the minerals, resulting in a transfer of calcium from bone tissue to the blood. This process also presents as a loss occurs of volume. Dryness is another factor, and to add insult to injury, many women see a return of acne and breakouts we haven’t had since the teen years. Many women also experience excess pigment and signs of sun damage (i.e., brown spots and photoaging also become more prominent.
First, we have to focus on maintaining our skin’s moisture. Dr. Robinson says that few skin types can endure the roughness caused by an exfoliating cleanser at this point in their skin, and instead emphasizes the importance of a milder, milky cleanser that doesn’t get too sudsy. “These types of cleansers are effective at removing dirt and debris without removing important oils produced by the skin that the skin needs,” she says. To deal with a loss of collagen, you can opt for in-office treatments like lasers, microneedling, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and chemical peels to encourage skin cell turnover and boost skin repair in a more controlled setting.
The sixties and beyond
It’s important to note that it’s not too late to begin anti-aging treatments in your sixties. Dr. Robinson says that the main concern with patients in their 60s and beyond is lack of hydration and moisture retention.
“The emphasis in our 60s shifts from skincare to procedures,” she says. “I recommend keeping skincare very simple, hydrating, and gentle at this age and focusing on procedures such as lasers that can be performed once or twice a year for improvement and maintenance.”
From the moment we come into the world, much attention is paid to what’s on top of our heads. Whether you were born with a thick shock of hair or peach fuzz, your hair was brushed and adorned with barrettes or ribbons. As we got older, hair care was a part of a routine and it likely went through a litany of styles, colors, and phases over the years.
Once we hit forty, many women begin to notice changes in their hair. It might seem a little less thick, a bit more dry, grey hairs are coming in faster, the list goes on. The battle against aging isn’t just about your skin, hair gets in on the act too. According to the article Surprise-Your Hair is Aging (And Changing) Right Along With You Skin, written by Hanna Baxter in Coveteur “While women can see early signs of hair aging in their 30s (grey is normally the first sign and can start well before the others), it is typically in the 40s when the signs become noticeable,” says Dr. Jeni Thomas, PhD, Hair Biology’s principal scientist. “By the late 40s and early 50s, women are seeing multiple signs which change hair’s fundamental needs.” And although changes in your hair can occur due to endocrine disorders, thyroid issues, and the environment, there are a few signs that are universal to the aging process.
When the effects of the pandemic resulted in a lockdown for states in March 2020, hair salons, barbershops, blowout bars, and more, had to close their doors. Not only were hair professionals temporarily put out, we as their clients were too. Furthermore, if you were a woman in your late thirties, forties, or fifty-plus, and dealing with hair changes, we lost our partners in hair care. Now, the health of our hair was literally in our hands. So let’s focus on what some of us are dealing with.
Thinning– Once thought of as a strictly male problem (male-pattern baldness near the crown), hair thinning is an issue for men and women. In general everyone’s hair gets thinner with age to a greater or lesser degree. However, things for women can begin to change with perimenopause and menopause, when hormones began to fluctuate. As stated in Coveteur, by age 45, the relative scalp coverage is 5 percent less than the maximum, and by age 50, scalp coverage is 11 percent less than the maximum,” says Dr. Thomas. The actual diameter of our hair also changes and that directly affects the strength of the strands.
Texture- When hair diameter changes, so does the texture of your hair. If you were born with curly hair, you know hair texture isn’t uniform, you’ve been coping with that for most of your life. However, if you don’t have curly hair, it can be a shock to realize how much it affects the way your hair looks and feels. Dr. Thomas noted that “The curvature of hair tends to lose its uniformity as we age. That also leads to the appearance of increased frizz and flyaways. Even for curly hair, which has an elliptical shape to begin with, the fibers lose their conformity to the fibers around them, resulting in a curl pattern that is less consistent than in earlier years.”
Dryness- Most teenagers and adults know about oily complexions, but there’s a certain amount of natural oil found in our hair. A number of women had to deal with oily hair that needed to be washed daily or every other day. The same hormones that made you break out as a teen into your twenties and early thirties, will strike again, only this time it’s a matter of less production of natural hair and scalp oils.
Grey Hair- This is inevitable for everyone. When we begin to see grey hair can be determined by genetics. If your parents greyed early, you are likely to begin to see those little hairs about the same time they did. “The average age of Caucasians when greying begins is reportedly mid-30s. People of Asian descent tend to grey a little later, late 30s, and people of African descent even later—mid-40s [on average],” says Dr. Thomas. However, it’s important to note that we can’t stop grey hair, and even if you color it, grey hair isn’t the same as natural color hair. Regardless of how healthy we feel, our bodies slow down as we age. A good diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep helps, but it doesn’t stop your system’s slowdown. The cells that produce color in our hair slow down in favor of other processes our cells need to perform. In other words, grey hair happens.
Lifestyle- Most of us have a hectic life. Stress plays a big part in our overall health, and that includes our hair. Finding ways to limit the stresses we can control helps a great deal. Moreover, finding a way to cope with those we can’t, like a pandemic, is essential to our overall health and our hair. It’s also important to note that even if you are pretty healthy, you may have underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or other autoimmune diseases for which you take medication. Medicine affects your hair too, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Just remain mindful and don’t put too much extra on your hair.
What can you do?
Eat right. A diet rich in vegetables, lean protein, and fruit helps keep your body and hair beautiful. Supplements haven’t been shown to help hair production, but check with your doctor before you begin taking anything
Drink Water. We need to drink enough eater to keep ourselves hydrated. It will help keep your tresses strong. At least 8 glasses a day. JUST PLAIN WATER. If the idea of plain water doesn’t appeal, you can have coffee and tea. There are also flavored seltzers, mineral water, or fruit water. Read the label to be sure it’s low or no-sodium.
Sleep. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep. Eight is ideal, but another cute little factoid about menopause is sleeplessness. Many women experience sleep problems during perimenopause , the period of time before menopause when hormone levels and menstrual periods become irregular. Often, poor sleep sticks around throughout the menopausal transition and after menopause. Try to make your bedroom more sleep-friendly. Turn off the television at least an hour before you turn in. Put your cellphone, tablet, or laptop away and out of sight. Read a book or magazine before bed.
Read the labels. When buying shampoo, conditioner, or any hair products, read the label. What goes into a product then onto your hair matters. In the Coveteur article, Dr. Thomas recommends staying away from anything particularly heavy, like an oil or thick balm, as these can weigh down thinner hair. Lightweight and fast-absorbing serums will help you impart more moisture as your sebum levels drop, minus the unwanted weight. She also advises avoiding texturizing products (like those that contain salt) and dry shampoos, as they can leave your hair feeling rougher and dryer. However, if you can’t bear to part with your favorite styling product, just scale back on the amount or use them less frequently. If you’re looking for new products to incorporate into your routine, there are a few key ingredients to embrace to prolong your hair health. Dr. Thomas recommends, “Ingredients like restoring lipids, cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, and the antioxidant that supports hair’s keratin structure, histidine.”
For Silver Foxes- If you have decided to embrace your grey hair. Good for you! Look for products that will keep your tresses looking silver and not yellow. Grey hair has specific needs in terms of shampoos and conditioners. Look for products that will keep it beautiful and healthy looking.
Embrace you. There isn’t any law that says you have to have short hair once you reach a certain age. The way you style your hair is your choice. If you want pink streaks, get them. A cute bob, or locks that rival Rapunzel, go for it. The best part about aging is being comfortable in your own skin.
As the pandemic has subsided a bit, salons and barbershops have begun to reopen. If you miss your weekly chat in your stylist’s chair, make an appointment and make sure everything is as it should be in order to ensure safety for everyone. Most of all, have fun. Your hair is a part of you, it by no means defines you as a woman. How you feel is up to you. Long, short, thick, or thin, you are still a queen. Always remember that.